But before the fun there was anxiety. A boatload of anxiety. Flotillas of anxiety. ARMADAS of anxiety (to continue with the boat metaphor).
As you may or may not know, I suffer from an anxiety disorder. I take this stuff daily, except on race days, or long-run days, when I find I don't need it:
I share this here not just because it's the malaise du jour, but in case anyone (of the two of you) reading suffers from this malady. I am living proof that you can in fact face your fears and do it anyway. It might not be pleasant at times, and you might in fact drive everyone around you mind-bendingly mad, but you yes, you can do it.
I got to Philly after a 4-hour car ride and immediately conscripted the Boyfriend—that would be Number One Daughter's BF—(who was giving up his room at the monastery (long story) to me and NOD for the night), to drive me to the expo to get checked in and attend the mandatory pre-race meeting, where they went over about 10,000 rules which no one in her right mind could possibly remember.
Then we did lots of running around to pick up last-minute items (CO2 cartridges, gatorade, oatmeal, you know, the usual), 'til it was time to pick up NOD at the train station and head for dinner. I got to bed about 10 p.m. and slept like a baby.
Up at 5 a.m. Transition opened at 6. Of course I didn't realize that my sherpas, NOD and K. would not be able to come into the actual transition area with me. So we said good-bye and that's when I first cried. Because I wouldn't see them for another, what, 2 1/2 hours???
I may never see you again.
I want my mommy.
I just gotta say: Triathlons are ridiculously complicated. How to rack your bike, where to put your damn NUMBER on the bike, where to stash your stuff, how to SET UP your transition area.
I had LBTEPA's list with me, and I still couldn't get it all straight. There are a million little decisions to make, and everyone around you is rushing, all of which just sent my heart rate thru the roof. And that's before I even started!
For instance: where to put my glasses during the swim? There was supposed to be a "special needs" table at the swim entrance where I could leave them, and then they would be transported to the swim exit, a few hundred yards down the river. But what if they didn't make it? That would have been the end of my race. The alternative was to walk to the swim entrance blind, or wear my prescription goggles around. I opted to keep my glasses in my bag at the transition area, and just be blind for a while.
So note to those of you who wear glasses: Decide what you're gonna do ahead of time.
Luckily, (for me) I made friends with my bike rack neighbors, who tried hard to calm me down, (one of them even hugged me!) and another let me borrow her cell to call NOD (next note to self: Do not leave cell phone in car) when I realized I had tons of time before my swim wave at 8:14. So I found NOD and went to visit her and cried again.
I also gotta say: I DON'T CRY! Ever! What the hell is with all the crying?!?! K.asked me afterwards what I was so nervous about, and I couldn't answer. My free-floating anxiety had apparently simply reached its apex.
My main worry was not NOT completing the swim. It was completing the swim without a broken nose. As we have established previously, I read too much, and I had read one too many tri reports about brutal vicious swim starts, with people swimming over you and kicking you. And the wave that went off 7 minutes after mine? Men 25-29. Not known for their mild ways.
But as with MOST THINGS IN LIFE, all that worry was unnecessary. Soon enough it was time for my start. I got in the water, and tried to figure out where the slow people were. To the back and the right? Or the back and the left? It turns out that half the people in my wave waited 'til the horn blew before getting in the water, so there was no getting behind them. Since I wanted to get acclimated, I chose to get in and tread water for 7 minutes. The water temp was perfect: 74F. I had on my sleeveless wetsuit, just in case it gave me an advantage.
The day was glorious. Beautiful blue skies, and here I was, the luckiest girl on planet, getting to SWIM in the beautiful Schuylkill River (seriously, it was beautiful). We did a straight shot down under the Columbia bridge, turned right around the first triangular buoy, swam along the length of the bridge, turned right again, straight until the next rectangular buoy, turned right, and swam in.
Swim rating: A+! No collisions, and instead of me freezing and treading water when I got near someone, I actually—get this—went around them. Just as though it were a race.
.9K took me 26 minutes. Smooth and steady, freestyle, easy-breathing, all the way. Yay me!
I chose to walk to transition. Many people had counseled me about not rushing transition, and I listened. It might look like I pulled up a chair and took a nap, after reading a novel, but no, I just took my time. Next note to self: Bring towel to wipe feet and face, because that will work better than a T-shirt. Sigh.
I also decided not to run out of transition since my heart rate was still ridiculously high.
It took me a while to get settled on the bike, feel good and get my head in the moment, which was my goal throughout the morning. I didn't care who passed me. I just wanted to enjoy the ride. I finished loop one in 32 minutes, and saw K and NOD cheering in the stands, which was fun. The ride had a few good uphills, nothing too horrible, just enough to make it challenging, and some fun fun fun downhills. I finished loop 2 in 31 minutes.
Oh, and I remembered to thank each and every volunteer. Twice!
Can I just say I loved the bike course? The day was so perfect. The weather perfect. Philly perfect. I loved mankind. World peace? Of course!
The one unusual thing I noticed on the bike course: It was eerily silent. There was no gabbing amongst participants the way you find on, say, a run course. No car noises either, since the roads were closed. Just birds singing in the middle of the city. It was transcendent. Again I tried to stay in the moment.
Before I knew it, I was pulling into transition, 15 miles in 1:03, which somehow translated into 15mph (not), but whatever. My left foot stuck in my pedal and for a few seconds I thought I was going down, but at the last moment I pulled it out. This time I trotted over the timing mat cuz I didn't want to add to my bike time, but then I walked to rack my bike. People were running by me left and right.
Bike rating: A+!! Do this race just for the beautiful bike course.
Only one thing left. I changed shoes, drank some gatorade, noticed some chafing under my arms, so tried to body glide them, but my body glide fell apart. Off I strolled to the run exit.
T2: 3:48. I hated putting down that novel, but I had things to do.
The run. On all my practice bricks my legs felt like lead. Curiously, this time, they felt fine, they just wouldn't move. By now the sun was out full force. Mile one in 11:00. Not too horrible. I tried to settle in behind someone, anyone, who could get me through. When I hit the water stop, I ate a gu, gulped some gatorade, and settled in behind a 27-year-old guy who was running slow and steady. I sped up a bit and he looked over and said, "Whacha got?" to which I replied, "I'm EMPTY, babe!" He said his goal was not to walk, that he was telling himself he had the rest of the day to walk. Which I adopted as my mantra. I slowed as the sun got to me, and I developed some kind of weird stomach/side cramp. Everything felt good except my stomach cramp, for which I tried all kinds of breathing contortions.
Whatcha gonna do?
Before I could say "bob's your uncle," there was the finish.
Bringing it all back home
Run: 36:18/11:42 min miles. Which believe it or not was faster than I thought I was going.
Afterwards, I felt like barfing. Which was quite unfortunate since the piles of free food were immense. I couldn't think about food. Instead, I opted for this:
I'm pretty sure I proposed marriage to the masseuse.
And then there was this:
Later, there was some snoozing in the park, some french toast at a diner, a long nap, and a persistent headache.
If you've read this far, congratulations!
I want to remember every moment of this, and I thank God and my lucky stars that I could actually do it.
And were this my podium speech, I would also like to thank all my mentors, who put up with a LOT (they can tell you!), especially LBTEPA, 21st Cent. Mom, Little Miss, Nancy Toby, Eileen, all my peeps at D.C. Tri, D.C. Rainmaker, K., and of course, NOD. You are all terrific, but I must warn you: You'll be going thru it all again come July 27!